What Makes Us What We Are - opening page



     She will be on the train now.  Sitting in a rattling carriage, insignificant among the ordinary.  As I am. As we all are. 
     Injected through cities, fields, suburbs and wasteland, she will, sometime this afternoon, walk out of the confines of the station back into her own life.  Perhaps she will call her husband from the train so that he will be waiting for her.  She will touch his arm, drop a kiss onto his face and lie.  Now, as the scenery smears past, she may be considering what they will have for tea.
     Before she left she took time to destroy any forensic evidence - a full fifteen minutes or more to shower and re-perfume herself.  Looking in the bathroom mirror she presumably managed to find an approximation of the face she left home with. 
     Birdsong came in as she opened the front door and she turned to me one last time. 
     She had not wanted me to drop her off at the station in Kendal.  “Too public,” she said.  The taxi she’d ordered had somehow managed a U turn in the narrow lane and was throbbing outside the gate.  Neither of us could bring ourselves to be the first to kiss and then it was too late.  She reached down to my hands instead, held them a second.
     “So now I have a secret life?” she said.
     Well don’t we all?
     The smile as she spoke was the same smile she wore as a girl.  The mouth the eyes.  I felt my rotting innards.
     “So long as we’re careful,” she said, “we can arrange other…” she resorted to quotation marks “…assignations.  There’ll be other courses they’ll want me to go on.  I can…”  She left the sentence hanging there in the cool morning air but I knew what she meant.
     I don’t tell her any further subterfuge will be unnecessary.  That this au-revoir is as goodbyeish as you can get.  Why spoil the moment?
     “I wouldn’t mind this place again,” she continued, looking up at the cottage.  “It’s quiet.  And quirky.  A bit spooky too – like another world.”
     And now here in the bathroom there are traces of her perfume in the air and though it is not the perfume I remember, I sit on the edge of the bath and, breathing it in, I feel my guts again.  It feels like … well, don’t the TV psychologists call it “closure?”
     Which brings me to the task in hand.
     How long should a suicide note be? Usually they’re short and pithy, I would suspect.  Just enough text there to leave a relative or friend feeling guilty for not seeing how far and how bad things had got.  Or else the briefest of notes to indicate simply that the effort of living has finally overcome the fear of dying.
     How indulgent is this, then?  A whole history (because that’s what I’m intending!)  A great long rambling exposition as to why I am what I am and - perhaps why I did what I did.    Though as yet you don’t know what that is.  And why Leanne (though that is not her name) is so special.
     I’m setting myself no mean task here.  By my reckoning I’ve got … maybe five / six days to write it.  I’ve used up one and a half days already with Leanne, kidding her I’d only arranged things for the weekend when I’d actually booked for the week.  That’ll give me the end of day six to do the deed, leaving one more day to ensure no-one arrives in time to revive me.  It’s a tight schedule. 
     When you’ve ploughed through all this (I’m talking to the coroner now or the police) – when you’ve scrolled right down to the final page and perhaps are beginning to pooh-pooh certain bits of it as fantasy, summon someone medical in a white coat to help themself to a bit of DNA.  There’ll be plenty here!  Then go back way back to re-open first your files and then your minds. 
     I read somewhere.  It might have been a footnote in one of the Open University units I did.  That by the time you’re thirty there isn’t a single atom left in your body from when you were a child.  In that time every cell has died and been renewed.  Think of it!  No I mean really think of it!  Not even in the brain, where you believe you are you, is there an iota of that earlier self – all that holds you and that child together is a thin strand of memory – a marvellous nothing; there’s just old thoughts re-sparking in new synapses to fasten down the integrity of our identities.  That’s all.  (I don’t mean that to be an excuse though!  Don’t think that!) 
     Small wonder then that, as I write this, trying my best to compress fuzziness into solidity, I’m already finding I’m having to invent.  Now what kind of start is that to a confession?